Review: Wave for Work
if you live on Zoom all day for your job, the ease of muting and using push-to-talk on the Wave ring is invaluable.
The pandemic is still ongoing, and video calls have become an ubiquitous part of our daily routine. The thing is, controlling things like mute or push-to-talk requires you to be sat in arms-reach of your computer. You can’t wander around to do things like make a cup of coffee without worrying about being called on, until now.
The Wave Ring from Genki was originally created as a gesture-based MIDI controller, for music production. Genki took that hardware and made it work for desktop use, like video calls, music playing, or controlling presentations. It’s called Wave for Work ($100), and we’re looking at it today to see if it’s video call nirvana or just a lot of hand-waving.
So, what’s it all about?
Wave for Work uses Genki’s Wave Ring, which they originally created for musicians as a wireless MIDI controller. It’s a smart ring that can fit any finger, as Genki uses velcro instead of multiple size options. That’s a good thing, and it’s the only smart ring I’ve ever been able to fit on my pointer finger.
It’s got three buttons, Up, Down, and Middle, which are set to various hotkeys depending on which mode the software is in, or you can set almost any action you can do on your computer. It’s also got gesture control, with a turning motion that’s mapped to changing volume when you’re in Music mode.
The Ring is actually able to do six gestures in total, but the Wave for Work software only enables roll and click. You can pay $100 to unlock Softwave, Genki’s MIDI utility that adds tilt, pan, vibrato, and tap options, but none of these are mapped into the Work software, so the upgrade is only really worth it if you’re also into music production. Maybe Genki can add some of the moves to the Work software, as some of the other motions could be handy.
The software has pre-set options for Music, Presentation, or Video Call, and one custom view that lets you map almost anything to the buttons. The roll movement is always bound to volume control, which is a shame. It would be really handy for scrolling documents or web pages, so I hope Genki expands this with a future update. I also wish it could minimize to an icon in my tray, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally closing the software when in use.
Currently, the Ring works with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, Keynote, Spotify, Photoshop, and a few other programs. Almost any music player will work as well, if they can be controlled by the media controls on your keyboard, the Wave Ring also works.
Holding down either the up or down buttons cycles the modes to the next one, and the tiny display on the side of the ring lets you know which mode you just changed to. Those icons can be slightly difficult to see, so maybe a future revision of the hardware could add haptic feedback so you don’t need to be able to see the ring.
So, WFH bliss or just more handwaving?
I’ve got to start by saying that, to me, having push-to-talk always available at a dedicated button press is invaluable. Most of my anxiety around video calls is knowing if I’m muted or hot-mic’ed, so knowing that I’m muted until I hold a button-down is really calming. I’d love it if it would work system-wide, so I could use it for in-game comms as well when I don’t want to have an always-on mic. You can get around this with the custom menu, setting one of the buttons to whatever your game has push-to-talk bound to.
Being able to control presentations with my thumb from wherever in the room I’m standing is also great. I don’t like bulky presenter tools, and I tend to fidget with them, so having the controls on a ring makes my fidgeting less noticeable.
The customized menu is handy, but with only three buttons to link commands to, slightly limited in utility. I found that linking them to CTRL-C and CTRL-V was really useful. I’d love to be able to change the motion controls to other functionality, especially in Photoshop and other editing software where it would be really useful to mimic a dial for things like color picking or brush size.
So, should I buy one?
Genki’s Wave for Work is $99 right now, which puts it up against Logitech’s Spotlight presenter tool. That’s some stiff competition, but then again Genki’s device does have some nifty motion control options. It’ll eventually go up to $149 though, so it might be a harder sell. Then again, if you live on Zoom all day for your job, the ease of muting and using push-to-talk on the Wave ring is invaluable.
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